Monday, July 3, 2023

Is Moscow Burning as Prigozhin's Vast Network of Side Businesses is Exposed?

By Larry C. Johnson - July 03, 2023 at 09:40AM


Remember the book and movie, Is Paris Burning?

"The title is taken from the question reportedly asked by Adolf Hitler following his order to destroy the city rather than let it be re-captured by the Allies. The story was adapted into a feature film by the same name in 1966."

Looks like Hitler was 79 years too early. Yes, many parts of Paris now are blazing as well as buildings and cars in other cities, and there is no end in sight. Yet the West is treating this as sort of a ho-hum business and none of the major media outlets are warning that Macron is on the ropes and on the precipice of being forced from office. So let me posit an alternative question — can you imagine the orgasm the Western media would be enjoying if the chaos that now shakes France (and reminiscent of the rioting that gripped the US during the summer of 2020) was occurring in Moscow?

I suspect the media — print, social media and the major TV channels — would be doing wall-to-wall coverage about Putin losing his grip on power and announcing that Russia was headed towards the cliff of dissolution. Be still my beating heart.

This is not a good look for the upcoming NATO meeting in Vilnius as the second most important European NATO member after Germany is wracked by a massive wave of violence. And while I’m beating a dead horse let me reiterate a point I made in my last article — Sweden’s attendance at the meeting will be a major distraction, at least for Turkiye, which is likely to excoriate Sweden for allowing the Koran to be desecrated. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation held an emergency meeting on Sunday in Saudi Arabia on the margins of the Hajj and issued the following joint statement:
'We must send constant reminders to the international community regarding the urgent application of international law, which clearly prohibits any advocacy of religious hatred,' OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha said.
I would not be surprised to see Turkiye’s NATO representative insist that NATO issue a declaration in support of the OIC. Since Turkiye’s military is the second largest in NATO, after the United States, its position on this issue cannot be ignored.

Shifting gears, there is a fascinating and expansive article in the Wall Street Journal detailing Yevgeny Prigozhin’s massive, formerly hidden, business empire. Here are some salient points from that piece:
Before Prigozhin fell from the Kremlin’s favor, he built one of the world’s most complicated and unaccountable corporate structures, a heavily-sanctioned spidergram of hundreds of companies in Russia and other jurisdictions that often paid their thousands of workers, mercenaries, line cooks, mining geologists, and social-media trolls in cash.

Many of the deals Wagner-linked companies struck with African governments were informal, reliant on smuggling and illicit transfers and personally negotiated by Prigozhin himself, Western, Arab and African officials say. 

One company employee said in text messages reviewed by the Journal that Prigozhin had transferred some of his holdings to employees in the weeks before the mutiny, potentially making them even more complicated for the government to requisition. 
I am struck by the level of detail in the article, which leads to the question — why is this info coming to light now? I’m inclined to believe that the Russians are leaking this info to Western sources in order to further sunder Prigozhin. (I do not follow Russian-language news media and wonder if this is getting any play in Russia — let me know.) However, I can’t discount possibility that this comes from MI-6 and it is being freely shared through liaison channels. In any event, it does expose Prigozhin as working a lot of side deals outside the boundaries of his Russian Government contracts and raises the prospect that he was sharing some of the wealth with his GRU handlers.

Andrei Martyanov has reported that the alleged close relationship between Putin and Prigozhin is a gross, erroneous exaggeration. Prigozhin, the consummate name dropper, used his alleged relationship with Putin to build his credibility over the last two decades with the GRU and MOD in order to boost his standing. At least that is what he was doing last year prior to his recent self-immolation.

I give Western propaganda kudos for convincing many smart people in the West that the Wagner Group was the heart and soul of the Russian military effort. Ray Mcgovern was on a podcast with Robert Scheer (formerly a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and a staple on National Public Radio) and Scheer repeatedly insisted that Russia is losing badly on the battlefield and Ukraine is prevailing. For those of you living outside the United States, Scheer’s embrace of the Western lies about Russia’s military failure in Ukraine is not an aberration. Millions of Americans have been bamboozled. You can listen to it at the following link.

Ray missed an opportunity to point Scheer to a recent piece in Forbes magazine — 25 Tanks And Fighting Vehicles, Gone In A Blink: The Ukrainian Defeat Near Mala Tokmachka Was Worst Than We Thought.

The following quote should give you a flavor of the article:
An attempt by the Ukrainian army’s 47th Assault Brigade and 33rd Mechanized Brigade to cross a minefield in southern Ukraine on June 8 was even more disastrous than we knew.

Analysts recently have tallied even more wrecked and abandoned 47th Brigade M-2 infantry fighting vehicles. At the same time, a Ukrainian photographer on or before Saturday got close enough to the site of the failed assault to snap photos of the Russian minefield that trapped the Ukrainian battlegroup, ultimately destroying dozens of 47th and 33rd Brigades’ best Western-made vehicles and killing or wounding many Ukrainians. . . .

In a bloody hour or two, the 47th-33rd Brigade battlegroup lost nearly a fifth of Ukraine’s M-2s, a fifth of its Leopard 2A6s and half its Leopard 2Rs. The United States promptly pledged more than enough extra M-2s to make good the June 8 losses, but Ukraine’s European allies have yet to pony up more Leopard 2A6s. And there literally aren’t any more Leopard 2Rs.

Despite losing the equivalent of an entire battalion in a single botched assault—that’s roughly 15 percent of the combined front-line strength of two brigades—the 33rd and 47th Brigades apparently remain intact … and still are in the fight. On Monday, Markus posted a selfie from a recent firefight.
This was almost a month ago and Ukraine’s counter offensive continues to falter. Yet, even someone as experienced as Robert Scheer is not getting the message. If the carnage in France continues over the coming week it will be more difficult for the West to peddle its message that Putin and Russia are weakened. Reality has a way of destroying fantasies.

Reprinted with permission from



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